Latex allergy is a reaction to certain proteins found in natural rubber latex, a product made from the rubber tree. If you have a latex allergy, your body mistakes latex for a harmful substance.
Naturally, occurring latex has been linked in recent years to allergic reactions in people who use such products as latex gloves. The proteins in the latex, which can also become airborne, can cause problems in vulnerable people such as breathing problems and contact dermatitis. Some allergic reactions, including anaphylactic shock, have been more severe.
Many health experts have rightly attributed the dramatic increase of allergic reactions to latex in the health care community to the increased use of gloves and other personal protection equipment in light of the AIDS epidemic.
Latex is a pervasive substance in many household items—from toys and balloons to rubber bands and condoms.
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Latex allergies could cause the following symptoms:
People with high-risk factors for latex allergy include those who have undergone multiple surgical operations, have spina bifida, or are persistently exposed to latex products.
When to see a doctor if you have a latex allergy
Seek emergency medical care if you are having or think you’re having an anaphylactic reaction.
If you have less severe reactions after exposure to latex, talk to your doctor. If possible, see your doctor when you’re reacting, which will aid in diagnosis.
If you are vulnerable to latex or have allergies related to it, please notify your doctor or dentist and, by all means, seek medical attention from your family physician.
Causes of latex allergy
Contact dermatitis on the face
In a latex allergy, your immune system identifies latex as a harmful substance and triggers certain antibodies to fight it off. The next time you’re exposed to latex, these antibodies tell your immune system to release histamine and other chemicals into your bloodstream, producing a range of allergy signs and symptoms. The more times you are exposed to latex, the more strongly your immune system is likely to respond. This is called sensitization.
Latex allergy can occur in these ways:
Direct contact.The most common cause of latex allergy involves touching latex-containing products, including latex gloves, condoms, and balloons.
Inhalation.Latex products, especially gloves, release latex particles, which you can breathe in when they become airborne. The amount of airborne latex from gloves differs greatly depending on the brand of glove used.
Prevention of a latex allergy
Many common products contain latex, but you can usually find a suitable option. Prevent an allergic reaction to latex by avoiding these products:
Some types of carpeting
Hot water bottles
Baby bottle nipples
Some disposable diapers
Motorcycle and bicycle handgrips
Blood pressure cuffs
Many health care facilities use nonlatex gloves. However, because other medical products may contain latex or rubber, be sure to tell doctors, nurses, dentists, and other health care workers about your allergy before all diagnosis or procedures. Wearing a medical alert bracelet can inform others of your latex allergy.